Monday, October 31, 2005

Bottom of the Boot

I've been gorging myself on charm these past few days, whether it is in the beauty of the land or in the genuine warmth of the Italian people. Real charm, beauty that has a lightness and ease to it, as opposed to intense beauty that you have to work hard to achieve or appreciate. The sight of three women, all beautiful and stylish, ages 30something, late teen and maybe eight, riding a Vespa together. Not the ersatz charm which you find in an American greeting card store. (My apologies to Jack Vail in case he's reading this). Yes, souvenir stands in Italy sell cutesy crap, but the foreigness of it makes it fascinating and strange to me. I know: it's not foreign, I am.

I've been in Sorrento since late last week, and have been taking easy day trips to explore the surrounding sites. Friday I was in Pompeii, Saturday I took a trip to Amalfi, mainly to experience the bus ride along Italy's winding coast, Sunday was Naples and today I was on the isle of Capri.

Capri is beautiful. However, this late in the season, there is a fine foggy mist that clings to the island. I probably like fog more than the average person, but on Capri, it can play havoc with two of the better tourist excursions: the blue grotto and Mounte Solaro. I got to the island a little after 9:00, then spent a couple hours wandering around, hoping more of the haze that clung to the mountaintop would burn off. It never really did, and I got impatient, so I took the chairlift to the top shortly before 1:00, then spent an hour writing in my journal and admiring the soft smeared view and thinking "Okay...Vesuvius is out there somewhere..."

After hiking down the mountain along a beautiful but at times slippery slope, I decided to head to the blue grotto. There is an opening within the rocks on the isle of Capri in which the sun's reflected light creates the most intense enjoyable asure blue on the floor of the grotto. You have to take either a bus or a boat to get there, then pay for a rowboat and admission to the grotto, and you're inside for maybe five minutes. Is it worth it? After getting off the bus, I stopped and asked a British couple who were in line for the bus what they thought.

British Couple's Review of The Blue Grotto
It's bloody expensive, and you're only inside for maybe five minutes.

Me: But is it worth it?

Well, it's a once in a lifetime experience, and if you're never going to be in Capri again, it's worth seeing.

I have nothing to add to the British couple's review, except that the blue is an amazing sight, and I know the video I shot won't do it justice. However, I'll be happy to show people the video for free.

Getting back to Sorrento from Capri was quite an adventure. The island's two towns, Capri and Anacapri, are on the mountain and most transportation returns to one or the other. I knew the last boat left at 7:00pm, so I had to get to the port, buy my ticket and be on the bus by then. By the time I was done with the blue grotto and was back in Anacapri, it was 4:30. Now, there are lots of buses that run between the two towns, but not so many that run to the port. When such a bus finally did come, I had to squeeze myself on and stand on the steps by the bus door. We left a number of people behind who don't share my Plasticman-like morphing ability, or my New York "screw you, I am getting on this bus" personality.

As we spiraled around the tight corners and curving streets of the island, all I could think was "I really hope these doors don't open." I shouldn't have worried. Someone's luggage was blocking the doors so that they couldn't open, which made for a bit of an operation when someone wanted to get off the bus. But finally I made it to the port.

After buying my ticket, I discovered, after immersing myself into a crowd the likes of which I have not seen in Europe since I went to a bullfight, that the previous boat to Sorrento never came, so now there were twice as many people trying to get one on boat. However, everyone was well behaved and in good spirits. There weren't any malcontents or assholes in my immediate area. Everyone made the best of a bad situation. Again, I managed to make it onto the boat, although I feel bad about the children and sick people I had to trample to get there. I stood on the back of the boat, watching our journey from Capri to Sorrento, admiring the darkness of night and the lights that decorated both destinations. I think I understand what it is dogs feel when they hang their heads outside the window of a moving car.

Final note: The pension where I am staying, Pension Linda, is run by a charming (that word again) older lady. I assume she is Linda, but the topic has never come up between us. Tonight when I checked in, her dog barked once or twice at me. The dog's name is Cuja, which is a little too close to "Cujo" for my taste.


Iva said...

John said...I managed to make it to the boat, although I feel bad about the children and sick people I had to trample to get there. George Costanza would be so proud of you.
I am so sorry that you didn't have a great view from Monte Solaro. It is truly magnificent...but I can't wait to see the pictures of the Blue Grotto. When I took the tour, we didn't have time to see it and I have always regretted that. We didn't get to Naples, either, except to fly into the airport there.
I did mention that the package you sent from Italy has arrived, didn't I?
Have a wonderful time...I love you.

Michele said...

So tell us about Paris John....I don't believe that you were ever there...but wait - I was there with you, damn - I blew my cover...

k.c. said...

wunderbar! i'm almost sorry that i'm going to germany next week, not italy. almost. but after a horrendous experience in milan five years ago, i'd sworn off italy. perhaps next year i'll start learning italian instead of swedish. or maybe i was going to start finnish.

my favorite part of this is how there "were no malcontents or assholes." that's so john hanlon. i love hearing your voice from the screen!

Miss Tanya said...

Hey, when are you coming home?

Iva said...

Hi, John,
Where are you now? Are you still in Sorrento or have you moved on?
What did you think of Pompeii? I could not get over the casts of people in their death throes that I saw there.
Love you, "talk" with you soon,

the hanged man said...

Mom -
Sorry - I forgot to acknowledge that you did tell me th package arrived. Thank you.

You didn't like the casts of the people of Pompeii in their death throes? Oops, looks like I got you the wrong souvenir.

I'm in Venice right now. Love it.

Kate - Before I left and was seeking advice on where to go, someone sent me the helpful comment "Milan is for assholes." After reading that it was the finance and fashion capitol of Italy, I had to agree. But southern Italy is great, as is Rome and Venice. The Italian people are among the world's friendliest.

Tanya - I'll be home the week before Thanksgiving. Are you and Rob having a party soon? How are you doing?

Michele - Yes, I am sorry. But Paris was such a bore after you and Bob left, that I've wiped it all from my memory.

Truth is, I think this blog will continue on even after I come home, unless that seems obnoxious or hints that I am living in the recent past. When it does, Paris will be covered. In detail.


Iva said...

Oh, Venice! Oh, Venice! It is so...Venice! Have a great time. See if you can find the Greenwald Bauer. That is the hotel that we stayed at...lovely. It is right down the Grand Canal from Harry's Bar. I hope you love it there.

Julie said...

Harry's Bar? Sounds like it should be in Totowa, N.J., NOT on the Grand Canal! John, you can continue to regale with stories Of Europe for as long as you want. After all, the point of a trip like this is that you do get to relive it when you're home.

k.c. said...

yay! news from johnny. hey, if you don't have tgiving plans, perhaps we can have it together again this year. but maybe you are off to see mom? just a thought; i get back the day before.

oh, and i remembered last night: it's *portuguese* that i was going to learn next. but you really have made me crave italy. hell, i'll learn both once i'm fluent auf deutsch, which is coming along nicely. i just found myself a yoga studio in stuttgart; chances are, going will result in stories of mishaps and misunderstandings that will be funny to you but not me.

Carol said...

Update, John, update! It's been 5 whole days.

Miss Tanya said...

How fabulous. I can't wait to hear you recount your adventures in person!

We're doing another New Year's bash, methinks.

the hanged man said...

I'm looking forward to seeing you guys, too. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone. Not to boast, but just because I miss you all.

Methinks I will make your party this year. I missed it last year.